Less than a month after two residential colonies of Hindu migrants from Pakistan were demolished in Jodhpur city of Rajasthan citing land encroachment, a similar incident has been reported from Jaisalmer city of the state.
On Tuesday (16 May), the Jaisalmer district administration demolished 28 housing structures belonging to the migrants in Amarsagar gram panchayat of the city.
District magistrate Tina Dabi told the media that the Amarsagar sarpanch had been complaining to the administration about “encroachments” by the migrants.
She said the land belonged to the government’s urban improvement trust (UIT), and added that there would be more drives in near future to remove several older “encroachments”.
Dabi further said that the state government had not issued any guidelines for rehabilitation of Pakistani migrants who have not got Indian citizenship yet.
The women have been identified as Devi Mayee, Hastu Devi and Mapti Devi. The report quotes a resident named Kishanraj Bhil saying that the residents were served notice at 6 pm on Monday to vacate the basti, and their houses were demolished the next morning.
Videos of the demolition can be watched here.
On 24 April, as many as 70 houses of Pakistani Hindu migrants were demolished by the Jodhpur district administration, citing encroachment.
Swarajya visited the spot; the report can be read here. Below are some pictures by Swarajya clicked after the demolition in Jodhpur.
About Pakistani Hindu Migrants
Who we know as Pakistani Hindu migrants are almost entirely the population comprising Hindu residents of Sindh province in Pakistan. The province shares the border with the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Unlike Punjab and Bengal that saw large-scale violence during the Partition of India in 1947, the Sindh area was largely peaceful.
Residents say that for as long as two decades after Partition, families residing along what were marked as border lines on paper, would freely meet each other and even marry in their caste and religious communities on either side.
As tensions escalated between India and Pakistan after the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965, the border lines were fenced and trains connecting Sindh and Rajasthan were stopped.
The fencing, which has become more sophisticated over the years, completely altered the fate of families in border areas. They could no more hop across on foot or on camels as they used to.
It is common in border villages of Barmer and Jaisalmer to hear stories of brothers or even married couples left separated due to the fencing.
Currently, the only official border open between India and Pakistan is the Attari-Wagah border in Amritsar. For several decades now, Hindu families from the Sindh province have been gradually migrating to India citing religious persecution.
It is from the Sindh area that most cases of kidnappings and forced conversion of Hindu girls emerge. The abduction and conversion of girls is one of the primary reasons why Hindu families migrate to India.
Typically, the migration process looks like this: the families obtain a tourist visa to visit Hindu religious shrines or towns in India, which usually is valid for four days or a week.
They secretly sell off their house in Pakistan and quietly board a train to reach the Amritsar border. After entering India, they settle down in slum pockets already inhabited by their ilk, facilitated by activists.
Then they obtain long-term visas (LTVs) from the Indian government that allow them to stay in India for several years. They apply for Indian citizenship and wait for it, getting their LTVs routinely extended. Most of those who migrate like this belong to ’lower’, agriculture-dependent castes such as Meghwal, Oad and Bhil. The ‘upper’ caste Sindhis, traditionally traders and hence known among Sindhis as ‘baniyas’, also migrate to India, but manage better resources for their stay.
The biggest such ‘upper caste’ Sindhi settlement in India is in Ulhasnagar in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, where they have been staying since their migration around 1947.
A Bhil migrant in Gangana camp of Jodhpur, named Dehraj, told Swarajya that his grandfather told him how the Bhils in his village in Sindh cluelessly saw ‘baniyas’ leaving their houses during partition. “Like my grandfather, none in our community knew anything about British quitting India or that Pakistan was being created. They stayed where they were. Some were even looking forward to occupying the houses left by the baniyas,” Dehraj said.
“As years passed, the mullahs became dominant and started radicalising the local Muslims. They began harassing our people [Bhils]. They began abducting our daughters and killing our men on charges of blasphemy. Our boys could no longer step out of the village,” Dehraj said, explaining reasons for the increasing migration.
It is due to this phenomenon of migration of poor, lower caste Pakistani Hindus to India that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha. The bill fast-tracks legal path for citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Those who came on or before 31 December 2014 were made eligible for citizenship without wait while those who came in later, could acquire citizenship after just six years of stay.
The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. Later, it was also approved in the Rajya Sabha.
The bill saw violent protests in various Indian states and, in New Delhi, the months-long sit-in agitation staged by the Muslim community culminated in three days of Hindu-Muslim rioting.
The act has not been implemented yet as the Centre is yet to frame rules. In January, the Centre requested an extension for framing the rules for the seventh time.
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